Three Poems by Deborah Akubudike


“…you cannot truly love another until you know how to
love yourself”

one. two. three.

plucking, picking like flowers
in the middle of a baking summer
a decade ago though. i love her.

i breezed through it like the east wind; learned
of wabi-sabi pottery my vitreous face and body.
i learned to weave lacquer in my skin play with broken chords in an opera and smile because i love her.
there’s this silence in the opera house because the audience want more but
i can’t give perfect notes. besides
the chords aren’t broken eyes are
and thoughts break
it’s similar to ceramics. leave her alone, i love her.

i stare at the mirror, at who i used to be;
touching places the human eyes refuse to see
smiling at
how i’ve fallen for a special clay pot

my aesthetic self.

Autumn Eve

I see someone

frozen, where my body lays
carefully embalmed
   waiting for my grandchildren
to pick up the weeds,
 burn an incense and call out for
protection  a prepaid harvest,
the way the ears pick up the lyrics of
a withered song [one by one, till all that’s left is the East wind
of a once beautiful woman]
  and lets that fire burn them

Her grandson’s eating songpyeon
 the way
her mind ate her till she became
  the weed
everyone wanted to throw away
from her father’s grave.

Allegory of a Cave

From Plato’s definition, “love is a serious mental disease”; describing a romantic love.

black hollow eyes
and red irises dance wildly
waltz style, two by two in seven times two, i second that. gold darkness tongues licking flares
hands locked and satisfied fingers.

naked hot bloody eaten
frigging high
excuse my french. i’m drunk and torn from red roses, my tongue’s occupied
with two many  breathss
both his and mine; locking, interlacing and drinking scarlet hearts.
no interjections, flat out flattery, no tongues no lies.
but i’m watching myself drown in my lover’s liquor cave, our heartbeats reverberating, a feeling i can’t understand or explain bound
 in a rather untimely spell too hard, i fell
   to insanity luckily no bruises no bleeding
inside of me. i’m safe, in his eyes. those eyes.

i’m tainted? no, untainted
you see
no regrets. nonetheless, i know too well
when a pair of hearts beat, they’re alive.

Akubudike Deborah is a black poet and lyricist, who enjoys hiking, listening to music and writing. Her works have been featured in Cypress Journal, TWPM, etc .She can be found on Twitter: @akubudikedebbie and Instagram: @ad_poet.

Five Poems by Ashley Sapp

Sad Girl Poets

I am sensitive.

Perhaps it is a prerequisite for becoming a sad girl poet,
A dreamer within a realist,
A someone who feels more than she reveals
Except for in vulnerable places:
Naked as your eyes roam her body, noting her scars,
Her lumps and curves,
A someone who is simultaneously anonymous and vulnerable.

There are no secrets; writers expel them in a breath,
A natural circumstance escaping the ribs,
A frailty beneath the bony shields;
And yet,
We cannot help but undress, divulge,
Lie upon the table for hands to pick and devour:
Unprotected, we ingest your secrets in return.

I am sensitive, yes,
But I am also savage.

Snapshots of Here

I take a breath as I seize the view, product of the mountain
That feels as though I am stealing something, shoplifting from
Nature itself (I cannot pay for such a thing), so I am guilty as I
Turn and place a bit of grass, a bit of tree, a bit of sun into my
Pocket to cradle and stare in awe of later.

Once when I was younger, I felt brave enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, tall and giant and worthy, and the breeze
Caressed my face and gently held my hair. I savored joy in
Fear because I stood there anyway, defiant, daring for the
Mountain to (just try) and drop me beneath.

Later, when I was older, I felt scared enough to stand on an
Overlook’s railing, small and tiny and brittle, and the breeze
Threatened my face and then pulled at my feet. I savored fear
Because I stood there anyway, expectant and asking for the
Mountain to move and (please) drop me.

But now I am here to simply hang my life on the shoulder of
The land and take a seat at this rolling table, ready to feast on
Meals made of scenery and time and dessert, of course, made
Of memory. I am nostalgic for made-up stories in my mind,
But this still feels real enough (to me).

This place is one that I seek in times of need and comfort
And even desperation — here, this place reminds me of how
Fragile but also valid my bones (these bones) must be to
To feel every step taken, a sudden jolt from feet to head,
Saying, “Listen to how this body speaks.”


Trigger warning: this poem contains references to sexual assault.

People around me have been slowly
practicing leaving, a routine of escaping
in different bodies, ones that curated
madness over happiness, and so
I learned that my body was not
my own. I gave it over to hands and
mouths and teeth, scraping against
earlobes and jawlines, gracing collarbones
and flesh that stretched over hip bones
and down skinny, awkward legs.

I was taught how to escape my body,
too, when it was stolen from me,
my vision blurred by drugs, frantically
searching for something to lock eyes on,
something other than the person moving
above me, across me, inside me. Lycanthropy
turned me into a bird, so I flew from
the scent of stale beer, away from my body
and out the near window, returning to myself
when I was more prepared to be savage,
to take me back from those hands and
mouths and teeth, baring my own,
realizing my own, feeling my own.

I am altered, but
I am not madness.

Give me my body.
I’ll tell you what I am.

Devastated in Swaths of Color

Flowers bloom from between my teeth,
and I swallow seeds meant for planting.
I drink water and water and water until I am filled,
my skin soaked, though my eyes dry.
I can see others pretending I have not arrived,
my words buried beneath their muddy feet
as they run towards something I am not meant to know.
But the sun casts shadows as much as it sheds light,
and I am understood, heard, seen within this land of birth.
I carve myself into bartered bark,
both devastating and deserving.
I see myself in the color green,
a signal of how I’m nascent and hopeful.
Soil is found beneath my nails in all the ways
I have touched experience. I am gathered in your hands,
a bouquet of trying. Pink and yellow and purple
rest on my tongue, and I smell the scent of familiarity.
Reciprocity spills itself upon your fingertips,
which I meet with my own. They touch my hair,
locks of revolution, and I smile—for I am spring.

Say Something

I won’t lie. I am told to say something often,
an aching appeal to peek inside,
and the pressure is intimidating
because I carry words like tears held captive behind my eyes.
I can envision myself.
The direction I move is flawless but quiet,
a zenith of harmony that is sensed rather than said.
I won’t lie – I am caught in the middle, the rhythm, and it makes
me feel; oh, it makes me feel.
An ellipsis of songbirds form on the sill,
and I find courage there as I am told, again,
to say something. My voice flickers like the imagined wink
in the Cheshire moon, a hint in the gaping night.
I won’t lie. Everything I ever thought to say,
it came from a scarlet throat.
So I can’t help myself. I can’t help, myself.

Ashley Sapp (she/her) resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her dog, Barkley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010, and her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, Variant Lit, Emerge Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @ashthesapp and Instagram @ashsappley.

Annabelle The Doll Takes New York by Bridget Flynn

The Voice inside her – the bad one – is in such good spirits.  

The museum in which she lives is shuttered, with a sign on the front door reading  “CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.” 

What’s begun? A plague of sorts. A sickness, the Voice purrs.  

So she and those around her are left to rot upon the shelves – at the very least, to collect  dust and argue amongst themselves. Here, in the Warren Occult Museum of Haunted Artifacts,  there are too many curses and demons and spirits now left to their own devices; There isn’t  enough room for all of them. 

This is why, she thinks, it is time to leave.  

The Voice takes over here. It animates her. It twists open the latch of her case, throws her  across the floor and, eventually, through that front door. 

But it’s she who decides where they will go. 

She is going to New York City. There is someone she’s been missing there.  


She met him on a night that, at first, felt like any other, though the dark Voice inside told  her to be vigilant, that a chance to possess and feed and maim was close –

The lights were all turned off and the door was locked after closing. It shut her and her  cohorts in musty silence. (Though she’s different from the others. She’s the only one in her own glass box that reads: DO NOT TOUCH! She has the Voice to thank for that.)

The grandfather clock that is said to weep blood chimed ten times, and the front door  opened yet again.  


Men. Two of them. 

Boys? No, they approach closer. Guys. Really, the Voice refers to all humans as  “playthings.” Vulnerable vessels. She’d quiet this Voice if she could.  

“Greetings, ghouls and ghosts fans,” one says, “we’ve trekked on the MTA all the way  over to Monroe, Connecticut to visit the famed Warren Occult Museum.”

He’s talking to the cameras, one strapped to his chest. Its yellow light swept the stacks of  cursed and cluttered curios, then trained, bright, on her.  

“We’re here, of course, to meet the Museum’s most notorious resident, an otherwise  unassuming child’s toy, said to be haunted by an ancient demon…the infamous Annabelle the Doll.” 

That’s her. How embarrassing.  

She was suddenly self-conscious of her stringy red hair, of the dust that’s settled in it. It  was like someone had flipped her over to check the tag on her cotton pantaloons. The Voice just  laughed darkly. 

“And Cooper here believes we’ll get footage that confirms the existence of ghosts,” the other guy said, “or, excuse me, demons, in Annabelle the doll.” 

This other guy stepped forward into the camera light. His camera was slung across one  shoulder, gear was looped around his waist. He wore a headset over his hair slick with pomade.  But it was his eyes that struck her: behind glass frames, button-black and sparkling—so like her own!

He stepped again, closer. 

“Dude, don’t touch it,” Cooper, the believer, said. His eyes were wide and mucusy with  fear. “Don’t touch that. Tony. I swear to God.” 

Tony. And his male human hand was coming towards her, radiating warmth even through  the glass that separated them. How she yearned for him to reach inside and touch her! Just a poke!  

(But even if it means his death? She and the Voice killed someone once, who tapped the glass and dared Annabelle to hurt him—and she did hurt him, or the Voice did. They did, together. She doesn’t like to remember it.) 

Cooper swatted Tony’s hand away. 

They then did what visitors normally do: recounted Annabelle’s first adoption, the stay  with nursing students that then Voice then terrorized, the many attempts to throw her in the trash,  the movie, the Hollywood bastardization of her. (A franchise, like she’s Shirley Temple or Mickey Mouse! She is really but a simple country girl, even still.) 

“You know what, I think we have to each spend a couple minutes alone in here,” Cooper said.  

“With our pal Annabelle,” Tony added. 

Pal? She hadn’t been a friend in so long, or had one. The others around her are  standoffish on their shelves, jealous of her fame.  

“I’m going to use the Spirit Box,” Cooper said, and he pulled a small device from his pants pocket.  

“Have at it,” Tony said.  

His long human legs and carried him away from her and out the front door, to wait. Alone, or seemingly alone, Cooper shuffled on his sneakers. He cleared his throat. 

“This here is the Spirit Box,” he said, “It’s a radio device that…you, or any spirit that’s in  here, can manipulate in order to communicate with me. It scans a radio dial practically every nanosecond, and you choose what it gets to say. So here we go…” 

The radio emitted a horrible screech and the Voice inside wanted to screech along, match its pitch, find something to say to this Cooper: Thou art a fool and thou shall feel our wrath and  regret this night you come to mock us, boy!

“How’s this?” Cooper says. “Anything to say, Annabelle?” 

But he was not really talking to her. He stared at his radio device, and looked up and down and around him. He only looked at Annabelle like a person does at a tired circus monkey, waiting for it to dance—not really looking, only disappointed. Only wanting from her. Annabelle would have squirmed if she could—fidgeted through the minutes that tick by. A bang. Cooper yelped. 

“Dude! You scared the absolute shit out of me!” 

“You get anything?”  


“No…but like, dude, I SWEAR I saw her feet move. Like a squirm. My eyes were  playing—” 

“Yeah, thought so. Now shoo, it’s my turn.” 

Cooper handed off the radio and left quickly. It was dark and quiet and Tony and  Annabelle were alone.  

There was a small tug at her heart’s yarn strings.  

“Lemme make sure I got my night camera on here…” Tony mumbled, fumbling with buttons on his camera. He slid his glasses up his nose.  

“I ain’t gonna use this Spirit Box thing. It’s annoying.” 

And then Tony looked right at Annabelle.  

But a lot of people look at Annabelle. They stare and wait in horror. But Tony’s dark eyes looked into hers. 

“Hey there, uh, Annabelle,” he says, “Nice place you got here.” 

Her case? There were streaky smears on the glass and that horrible sign, taped up and  tattered: DO NOT TOUCH! 

“My buddy Coop is real excited to be meeting you. And by that I mean he’s scared  shitless…” 

It is not like Cooper’s over-enunciated bravado. Tony was talking quietly…like they were in a quiet movie theater, sharing popcorn, and he must look over and whisper that she looks so beautiful, whisper or else get angry shushes from the crowd around them. (Annabelle’s never been to a movie theater, of course, but she’s heard of them, dreamed of them as only demon dolls can do.) 

“And I don’t think you look very scary, to be honest.” 

That Voice growls. It’ll show him scary—but no, no, Annabelle blushes.  

Tony talked more, an intimate mumbling: how he and Cooper came all the way from  New York City and they are filming an episode of theirs, on Youtube. 

“I don’t really know how I got roped into this…” he said, and Annabelle wished to nod, to reach the glass with her little hand and give it an understanding tap. She longed to speak—but he made her shy! 

How he looked at her so intently, completely without fear! With an emotion Annabelle couldn’t name… 

“Yeah,” he sighs, “I don’t really believe in all this stuff. Sorry.” 

It could have ripped her apart at the seams.  

It was somehow worse than all the times she’d been passed off, thrown in the trash. It is worse than the endless days of being here in the museum, ogled and yet neglected. She thought Tony could look right into her stuff and understand her.  

(Not that Tony is her first skeptic. There have been so many, ambling among the haunted rows, holding in yawns.) 

But Tony felt different, if only for those eyes. He looked right at her, and spoke to her, but he did not think she’s there at all. He had no fear because, to him, there was nothing here. The Voice laughed at her, foolish little child. 

“TIME’S UP, ANTONIO!” Cooper barged in, “Did I scare you?” 

Tony looked at Annabelle with one curious blink and then put his back to her. “Get anything?” Cooper asked. 

“Of course not,” Tony said. 

“Okay. Let’s get some B-roll and get out of here. There’s a Burger King like a mile away.” 

When they left, Tony shut the door with a creak and slam. He left Annabelle in the same old darkness—but somehow darker than before, and lonelier, too.  


The MTA Cooper the Believer had told of is a long, shining train, and Annabelle hoists herself into a seat at a window and watches the world. How big, and how fast it goes by!

She dreams of the Big Apple, and she dreams of Tony. Perhaps they will walk the city streets together, Annabelle perched high on his shoulders. They will share a pretzel or roasted nuts. They will go to the theater. They will frolic in that big famous park together and lay in the grass.  

It has been years since Annabelle existed outside of the museum, but she’s heard enough about the big city to know what to expect when she hops off the train and into a crowded station. She grabs hold of a child’s rolling suitcase, hitching a ride up onto the street.  

New York City is as large and towering as she imagined. The treads of city-goers around her are deafening and dangerous, but she knows that it is somehow less than normal. Everyone she sees is masked, the lower half of their faces covered.  

People glance at Annabelle and then glance away. She is just a poor child’s forgotten toy.  (Nobody recognizes her as the Annabelle, only because they hired a new doll to replace her in the movie, some porcelain-faced hussy!) 

There’s a feeling in the grey air she recognizes: a haunting. No one here is open to wonder. Before, it was because these city folk just didn’t have the time, or the money, but now it is something else; an impenetrable pessimism that senseless death brings. Fear keeps them closed. It’s cynicism and mistrust—she’s most familiar with it as plain “skepticism.” It takes so much bravery and heart to believe, Annabelle knows.  

The Voice only plays along on this grand adventure to find Tony. The Voice does not have a metropolitan ren-des-vous in mind. You embark on a blue train underground, called “A,”  it tells her. You travel to a land called Washington Heights. 

The Voice hungers in this land that’s ripe with death. Tony is as good a first course as any. The Voice pants inside her. 

But Annabelle prays, in a sweet little voice that is all her own: Believe in me, TonyBelieve me. 


The Voice betwitches a stray cat and Annabelle holds tight to its scrappy fur, bounding across screeching intersections, dodging between pedestrians and leaping over mounds of trash. The Voice steers the cat up perilous concrete stairs and scales a rusting fire escape. When the Voice commands they stop at an apartment window, Annabelle becomes shy. She came all this way to find Tony, and almost wishes she still hasn’t arrived. Is she ready? The is a whirring fan shoved within the window frame. Annabelle peers inside, and through the spinning blades, she spies him—Tony, Antonio, her love! 

He wears those same glasses over his warm black eyes. He sprawls on a sofa. He’s watching television. 

Annabelle is eager to wait. The Voice bides its time, too. Tony sits in front of the TV. He looks at the small phone in his hand each time it chimes. At one moment, he leaves and returns quickly with a plastic bag. He eats from orange-stained containers. Night falls. Tony disappears into another room. It’s here that the Voice loses patience.  

Enter! The voice cries. Cross this threshold! Strike fear into the hearts of humans!  Remind them of the real potential of death and suffering!  

The Voice is too theatrical, sometimes.  

Annabelle jimmies the fan aside and tumbles softly onto a rugged floor. From a dark, open doorway she hears slow, rumbling breaths. 

It’s a bedroom. Annabelle spies a long lump in the bed up high. It gives a gentle rise and fall.

Kill, kill, kill, the Voice says.  

Annabelle climbs to the top of the small table at Tony’s bedside. 

Kill! The voice commands, press your hands against his throat and smite him!! The horrible urge comes to her blunt limbs, a flame burns in her worn cheeks. Leaving the museum was a stupid idea. How could this guy ever love her? How could he ever even accept and understand her? 

But how innocent Tony looks now, as he sleeps. His cheeks are soft, his mouth slightly downturned. His forehead is smooth. How impressionable and innocent he looks, like he is having a pleasant dream. Maybe Tony dreams of sailing boats. Or of driving. He doesn’t dream of ghosts or ghouls—why would he? He doesn’t believe in Annabelle. 

Tony, Tony. It’s her and the Voice speaking in a discordant harmony. If she breathed, she’d be holding her breath. 

Tony’s eyes squint open. He lifts his head and his hair pokes out at sharp angles. He reaches for his glasses and his hand brushes her felt-black shoe!  

He slips his glasses over his nose, and he looks at Annabelle. 

“Huh,” he says.  

Her sugar-plum intentions could drown out the Voice (smite, kill, smite, kill), if she tries  hard enough. This doesn’t have to end in death and fear, not if she is strong enough, if Tony—

“Funny,” Tony says, “I saw on Twitter you escaped.”  

She doesn’t know what that means. She can hardly process it as he picks her up from  around her belly. 

She braces herself. Believing means fear, too, sometimes. He could toss her across the room, scream, light her on fire. 

Tony props her onto a pillow. 

“You’re a far way from home, aren’t ya?” 

She’s never really had one. But there is comfort here and it is filling her like so much cotton stuffing; This must be what having a home feels like. The Voice is muffled and she knows it is retching at the sweetness, retreating in order to lick its wounds. It leaves Annabelle and Tony alone. 

“This is funny,” Tony says.  

When he begins to snore again, Annabelle cuddles to his chest. She will pretend that his sleeping body has only jostled her inanimate one, towards him, come morning.

Bridget Flynn holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from SUNY Purchase College. She can be found on Twitter @Bmkflynn.

Two Poems by Millicent Stott

Winter, Divine

I could sense that storm
long before it arrived
the light of amber, feline eyes
splashed so casually
against the varnished blue
of dusk
my headlights burning through the fog
her wet hair draped about her
velvet like a rabbit fur,
a slippery gown,
winter, divine and
we are falling in the frost
please, don’t be so gentle
leading me into the woods
sugar mice and crimson snow
from the party girl
whose teeth chatter in the cold
purple lips sweet as
washed up dolphins and
night walks in the cemetery
the rich steam in my morning shower
the crisp leaves crushed underfoot
promise I’ll stay


These woods are sodden with
blackberry and blackbird song
so hold me tight till I can no longer
feel their green eyes on me,
bury me among the bracken,
we must squeeze our eyes shut
I will feed you
on watercress and the mushrooms
that make you sick
and they may never find us here
the chanting witch with the
sad white face howls at the moon,
when they drowned her daughter
in the lake
I saw her soaked blue skirt
float above the surface,
then her smiling face like a demented dove
golden tendrils of angel’s fingers
I know how many people
at the mercy of your sweet hunting knife
I know that we can stay here
hands clutched, bruised, moss infused
against the
strange, jagged night

Millicent is a 19 year old English Literature student and poet. She loves feminist literature, cats and star gazing. Her work is inspired by folklore, queer love and the natural world. Follow her on Instagram @millicenteve_.

Interference by A.R. Salandy

Over there, Over there! cried he,
As two men jostled and hollered
As rain poured and onlookers bolted
In search of uniformed help-

Nowhere to be found,

But off in the distance
The slow wail of gales
Intermingled with sirens
And crashing waves too

As onlookers interfered

In hope of forceful interruption
Of men driven by passion
And antagonized by weather brutish
That now acted to interrupt a fight,

Where no man might stand against forces natural.

Anthony is a mixed-race poet & writer who has spent most of his life in Kuwait jostling between the UK & America. Anthony’s work has been published 120 times internationally. Anthony has 1 published chapbook: The Great Northern Journey. Anthony is the Co-EIC of Fahmidan Journal. Follow him on Twitter @anthony64120 and Instagram @anthony64120.

semi-verbal by Lucy Doherty

i sense myself sinking into it.
we’re in a shop, picking out clothes.
my mother is laughing at the cheap trinkets.
what do you think?
i am clean and cold. The music coming from the ceiling is heavily autotuned. my mouth feels so small. i can’t open it.
my mother’s eyes are too bright. mine are unfocused and empty. she’s waiting for me. i nod and twitch my lips.
she leans in and whispers, “we’re going home soon”.

Lucy Doherty is a 17-year-old girl living in South-Central Wisconsin who tentatively calls herself a poet. Poetry makes her feel like she’s filled with electricity. She enjoys comedy, singing, and candy. You can find her other work and her social media at

Three Poems by Jeremy Jusek

a brief love poem

After eighty-five years
of playing rootsie,
the two tree’s branches
finally intertwined.

A breeze blows.

The Local Cinema Was Recently Purchased by a Serious Man Who Believes a Little Less in Movies Than His Idealistic Predecessor

Conscription sat me in a
cinema, where I watched
little movies of my friends’ big lives

and learned who picked whose
nose. And worse still where they
flung the boogers.

I severed my shadow like
Peter Pan, feeling particularly
boyful as I danced

with their silhouettes
and shouted obscenities
at my own.

My shadow paled
as the sun set—its straining
brothers, once mere targets,

shielded by branches from pooping birds,
were become mighty, two-dimensional
ships, waiting for the anchor

to dissolve, swallowing my shadow and
the world and all its creatures
and my friends’ boogers

into an ocean of vague similarities
long past I’d, without my own knowledge,
fallen asleep in my chair.

And who could blame me? The chairs
were recently replaced and attendance was up
into the rafters because the chairs put us there.


Paint is only testable at 4 Mil. Otherwise
detestable. All is detestable, all faded
blighted grime in different colors.
Knick. Knack. Avoid the bubbles.

There are bubbles in my paint
rising to the surface,
pointed crime, progress

A human blip
called a drawdown
starved in a lab
watching paint dry
before it’s time to test
how washable it is.

Jeremy is a poet and playwright living in Cleveland with his wife and two kids. He earned his MFA from Arcadia University, is the author of “We Grow Tomatoes in Tiny Towns”, and runs the West Side Poetry Workshop. To learn more, visit Follow him on Twitter at @JeremyJusek.

Brief Interaction with God and Pizza by Ashley Pearson

  I was Christened fashionably late in a white lace gown from the sales rack at Bergners. I can not remember being baptised, but I imagine it was a grand affair. Much of my family was in tow; a crowd of stiff pressed black pants and strong cologne.
  My dear Uncle, who was on the brink of his third divorce and fourth marriage, was named as my godfather. I wonder if the title of godmother was passed between girlfriends/wives and handed down like a worn Bible. I thank God that I never had to come under their care and be tucked away in the back of some book shelf.
  My baptism brought a sense of normalcy to my birth which was wedlocked, adopted, and foreign. There had never been a Korean to hold my last name. But, there were generations of blonde or bald heads dunked by Lutheran pastors. And, in tradition, my bush of black hair had to be plunged too.
  Briefly, in the baptismal font, a small German child reflected below me.
  I imagine that we celebrated in good, middle-class, Midwestern fashion with a pot roast at home or pizza from a place that handcuts their own pepperoni. I could not eat solid food, but maybe one of my cock-eyed cousins slipped me a pomegranate seed to ensure my sanctity, fertility, and abundance (it was never too early to spit blasphemy on a girl).
  Wedlocked, I was 0-1 with God. Perhaps, 613 seeds down the road, I could break even with Him.

Ashley Pearson is a writer, creative writing and biology double major at Knox College. She is Korean-American. Ashley has been published in The Global Youth Review, Ogma Magazine, and elsewhere. Her work is forthcoming in Qmunicate Magazine, Catch Magazine, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ashley___writes and on Instagram at @ashleynicolewrites.

That In-Between Time of the Evening by Collin McFadyen

It had been winter dark for a few hours, so it seemed later than it was. It was that in-between time of the evening, when you could just go home or maybe stay for a few more drinks and see what happens. The dyke bar wasn’t busy yet, a few older butches leaned around the pool table talking about work and women just like any other place. I was the youngest in the room, sitting at the bar with my fake ID hot in my pocket, but the old woman behind it hadn’t asked when I ordered a Rainier. It wasn’t really fake, just stolen. I’d swiped it from the hutch at work where the servers stashed their cigarettes and car keys. I felt a little bad about it because the girl I’d taken it from had pinned a sweet, genuinely friendly note to the corkboard in the break room, asking had anyone seen it?

I sipped my beer and worked on the halfway finished crossword I’d picked out of the pile of newspapers next to the door. The daytime bartender sat a couple stools down from me at the end of the bar, his shift drink in front of him while he counted out his tips and settled up his till. Eventually he pulled his wallet from his back pocket and tucked the bills inside, then knocked back the rest of his whiskey and walked behind the bar and put the zippered bank bag of cash somewhere underneath. He was slim and not much older than me, his faded Levis worn thin in the crotch and butt. A big Western belt buckle peeked out from underneath the hem of his tight black Tina Turner concert tee. He poured himself another whiskey and came back around to his seat and smiled at me and said Oh Lord what a long day and then we just started chatting like people do in bars; about not much but friendly enough. He had the old lady bartender pour him another, and he bought me a beer too. I went ahead and bought myself a whiskey to go with it because it was too early to check into the shelter anyway. We talked about Tina Turner and how it was the best concert he’d ever seen, even though it was in the Tacoma Dome. He was from Ellensburg, originally, he said, but aside from the cowboys who came for the Fourth of July Rodeo, there was no reason for him to stay, so he’d come to Seattle. Like Dorothy goin’ to Oz he said, and I wondered what he meant by that.

He was a nice enough guy, at least nice enough to be working in a dyke bar, so when he told me his dog had puppies, five of them, I agreed to go with him and see them. His apartment was above the bar, two stories up. We walked out the back door of the bar and then went right back in through the alley door that led upstairs. Inside, the air felt slightly moldy, and smelled like cigarettes and bleach and tv dinners. I followed him down a narrow hall on a stringy trail of carpet until he stopped and took out his keys. The door was white once but now it was greyed with years of ghostlike handprints, and the tin room number 24 was nailed on a little crooked. When he put his key in the lock, he had to jiggle the worn doorknob a certain way before it turned.

Inside, a person could tell it had been an SRO, a bum hotel, with a tiny sink and a small shelf under a mirror on one wall. The other side of the room was a makeshift kitchen; a two burner electric hotplate and a small dorm room sized fridge sat on a rough wooden counter that looked like it was found in the alley and would have to do. The Murphy bed was down, and neatly made, but it felt weird to sit there so I just stood where I was. The only window looked towards the Space Needle; a reminder I was far from home.

The dog lay on a pile of pillows covered with a flowered quilt. She was brown and medium and no particular kind of dog at all. She looked up at the bartender and waggled her stumpy tail, then went back to mothering her puppies, licking them and arranging them with her nose while they nursed. Their little bodies, plump with milk, looked more like baby manatees than puppies.

He said Hi Mama Girl, and stroked her head and ears, then reached into the pile of pups and pulled one out for me to see. Her worried brown eyes watched him rise and she nudged the others closer together into the warm curve of her belly.

He passed me the puppy, it’s body so loose and boneless that it almost slid through my hands. I held him up to my face and looked at him closely, close enough to smell his earthy puppy breath. Little drops of foamy milk clung to the tiny whiskers sprouting from his chin and lips, and his nose was pink and damp. He was perfectly still, and I stared into his cloudy blue eyes for a long minute until my own eyes felt hot and sharp and I turned away. Mama Girl watched him hanging above her in a stranger’s hands, and shuffled a little on the quilt, maybe considering saving him but afraid to leave the others. I closed my eyes and rubbed the pup’s smooth fur against my cheek and breathed his smell, then gave him back to the bartender who put him down with the rest. Mama Girl tongued him clean while he searched for a nipple and went back to suckling like nothing ever happened.

The bartender asked if I wanted to go back downstairs and have another drink, and I said sure, and as we left the apartment I noticed that the door hadn’t fully closed and I could see Mama Girl through the open crack. I followed him down the hall to the stairs and as he descended ahead of me, I changed my mind. I told him I wasn’t feeling well, and thanks for showing me the puppies, but I was going to go home. We said goodbye and he walked down the stairs and I heard the music get loud as he went in the back door to the bar.

I turned around and walked back to the apartment, my chest tight and so full of mad and sad that it felt like my heart was pumping nothing but tears. Quietly, I pushed open the door. Mama Girl looked up from the litter, suspicious, but didn’t get up. I looked at the puppies and thought about taking mine with me, but he was snuggled warm and safe in with the others and I knew he was better off where he was. I stood quietly and looked around the room. On a small table next to the bed sat a bracelet made of cheap silver, probably from the market, the kind that turns your skin green. It looked like it was supposed to be Indian, and had tiny little bells that tinkled quietly when I picked it up. Mama Girl watched me with her sad dark eyes while I slipped it inside my bag. I left the apartment, careful to close the paint-chipped door all the way and turn the knob until I heard the latch click. Outside in the night, I could smell the puppy on my hands as I warmed them with my breath. It seemed later than it was, I thought, and I turned quickly down the alley, hoping to make it to the shelter before they locked the doors.

Collin McFadyen is a Queer writer living in North Portland with their wife, two sons, and a wicked cute terrier. They have been published at Subjectiv, Tealight Press, Kissing Dynamite, and others. Follow them on Twitter @crayonsdontrun and on their website.

VAMPIRE by Holly Redshaw

I wait on your replies,
They mean as much
As your mouth and touch,
Though somehow still,
They’re never enough.
There’s a gap, a crack,
A little jagged, perhaps.
I feed on your love
To fill me up,
I must leak, I suppose,
It keeps draining out.
And I hold you close,
I bite your skin,
I give, give out,
And let you in;
Take from whatever else
the earth can give,
But there’s dirt
out there, and smoke.
I don’t know if
I can let myself live
In a place where people are happy
To just be unhappy.
Where satisfaction’s crude,
It’s normal to be rude
And empty.
The sky is empty,
The clouds are only air –

I feed on your love
To fill me up.
I must leak, I suppose,
It keeps draining out.

Holly is a bassoonist from London, currently studying for her Masters at the Royal College of Music. When not playing the bassoon, Holly enjoys going on long runs, making her own bread, and writing reviews of crème brûlées on her blog, “Can’t Be Beaten.” Follow her on Twitter @hollyredshaw and on Instagram at @hol_red.